The X-Files #185: Field Trip

"You're saying these aliens had nothing better to do than buzz the same mountains for the past 700 years?" "It sounds like crap when you say it."
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: Mulder and Scully fall prey to a mass hallucination where two skeletons were found in an embrace.

REVIEW: Over the past couple seasons, the show has toyed with the idea of bringing Scully into the fold, as it were, of turning her into a believer. After all, if she's as logical as she claims to be, she wouldn't dismiss the paranormal after all she's seen. But they seem to chicken out every time, bringing her back to the comfortable dynamic she and Mulder were designed to have originally. She's more open to extreme explanations, but she'll always plays devil's advocate to check Mulder's conclusions with the scientific method. And that's fine. It's part of the show's DNA. What we neglect to realize, often, is that Mulder questions assumptions too, even his own. The episode plays with that, although its initial discussions are rather on the nose. There's something vaguely irritating about the two leads talking about the show's premise and how absurd it is six years in. Don't call attention to it! You're attacking the very suspension of disbelief necessary to enjoy the program! At least Mulder's claim that he's always proven right is debunked when his "UFOs" fail to be anything of the kind, but still...

The episode starts with a fantastic teaser, where a couple comes back from a hiking trip, climbs into bed, and we cut to skeletons lying in a field in the same positions. But from there, things get a little more predictable. You might spend the first ten minutes wondering if Nature is copying people and giving them virtual lives inside some kind of matrix, but as soon as Scully kicks up mushroom spores, you pretty much know it's all an illusion, even before people start melting into bog juice. It's just a matter of waiting for the characters to will themselves into consciousness again. The fungal organism responsible is somehow telepathic, and gets inside your head, but it seems limited by your own thoughts. Both Mulder and Scully are only told what they want to hear. Because the two of them are used to questioning things, they consistently poke holes into the fungus' "story", which keeps editing itself until its reality is untenable. Its last attempt shows that it strives to create a better illusion, and it's part of the problem, I think, that the final scene could well be an even better illusion. There's nothing we see or are told that proves we're no longer in fungus VR, for again, Mulder and Scully's conditions are nowhere near as bad as they should be if they were being dissolved in gastric acid for hours (and it has to be a while if Skinner has had time to come down to North Carolina!).

So enjoy the alternate realities for what the fantasies they offer - Mulder abducting a Grey alien, Scully turned into a believer, the Lone Gunmen at Mulder's funeral, Mulder shooting Skinner - but it's all rather insubstantial when you come right down to it.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium
- A perfectly fine alternate universe, "imaginary" story, but the ploy is so obvious, it tends to come off at times as a little tedious.

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